Ombudsmen looking at the secret coalition agreement

Jacinda Ardern’s gamble to try and keep the secret coalition agreement quiet seems to be backfiring.

All her actions have done is enrage journalists and now the Ombudsmen are involved:

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has written to Jacinda Ardern in relation to the 33-page coalition document that she has refused to release, asking her to respond within five days.

He has also made a general plea for advisers to ministers and top officials to stop “dumbing down” advice in an effort to spare them from potential embarrassment.  

Ardern has been under pressure from the Opposition to release the 33-page document, which she describes as an unofficial “record of some of our [coalition] conversations”.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters described it as a “document of precision on various areas of policy commitment and development” and “directives to ministers with accountability and media strategies”.

One of them must be wrong.

This really could turn out to be an own goal for Jacinda Ardern. So much for a new era of honesty and transparency.

The Opposition has sought to portray the Government as secretive, urging Ardern to release the document while accusing ministers of refusing to answer simple questions – which has seen the Opposition lodge more than 6000 Parliamentary written questions.

Ardern’s refusal to release the document is now the subject of a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Boshier told Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon that he had read the document.

“I’ve written to the Prime Minister and my expectation is a five-day time turnaround for a reply.”

He said he could not talk about this individual case, but described the general process.

“I set my own timelines as to what’s appropriate. I see the document. I go through it. I form my own view. I then take that provisional view to each side and say, ‘This is what my view is. What do you say in relation to my view?’

“And then I release my decision. It’s very rare that my decision is not complied with.”

I’d say he has already decided…and it won’t be good for Jacinda. They have five days to try and spin something positive.

Ardern said in a Facebook Live video last night that she wanted to be more transparent and release Cabinet papers and official advice that lead to a decision.

“We’re doing work on that now so we can improve transparency around that decision-making, whilst at the same time making sure that we still get really free and frank advice from our public servants,” Ardern said.

Release the secret agreement then.

Boshier was encouraged by the Government’s approach, saying that a culture of transparent Government had to start with strong leadership.

But there had been a risk-averse approach that had seen officials shy away from provocative advice that might cause political embarrassment.

“I would like briefings to ministers to be more robust and to be able to be much more provocative than has occurred because of a dumbing down of advice in the event that it might be released.”

There had also been occasions when officials had wanted to release information, but minister’s offices had “frustrated that process”, as well as unjustified redactions from documents that had been released.

He said it was wrong to characterise the Office of the Ombudsman’s sanctioning powers as a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket.

“In my two years, I’ve not had any decision that’s not been complied with … People hate being reprimanded by the Ombudsman. In my experience, they’ll do anything to avoid public criticism.”

Let’s see what Jacinda will do.

 

-NZ Herald


Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

59%